Turkish Coffee. An upper layer as thick as molasses, a scorching liquid center, and a thick, gooey sediment on bottom, all compressed into a cup stolen from a little girl’s tea party. It’s intense, and you do feel a spike from the infusion of caffeine, but it’s definitely an acquired taste … and not for the faint-hearted.
Turkish Delight. Imagine cubed gummi bears, shot through with nuts, rolled in powered sugar. Machine-made varieties abound, boxed and shrink-wrapped for easy travel, but handmade versions (particularly the rose flavor) are sweeter, easier to chew, and more flavorful.
Ekmek. Turks believe Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden because they learned the secret of Ekmek from the Archangel Gabriel. After sampling ekmek, you might agree. Loaves come puffed up like footballs, then collapse and exhale their fragrant, airy center when you tear away the bread. Exquisite.
Simit. Untwist a soft pretzel, make the dough into a ring, slather it with sesame seeds, then brown it until crispy, and you get simit, a breakfast bread sold by street vendors all over the Sultanahmet district. Served fresh, it’s a delight; served cold out of a vendor’s stall? Not recommended.
Acili Ezme. Mash tomatoes with hot spices, onions, and an assortment of herbs, and you get acili ezme: a thick, rich Turkish salsa perfect for dipping your ekmek in. We ordered many a plate of meze (appetizers) while in Istanbul; the acili ezme was always the first component of the assortment to disappear.
Dolma. You’ve had this at Greek restaurants — stubby cigar-shaped rolls of grape leaves, stuffed with rice, peppers, tomato, and eggplant. I thought the Turkish variety was more oily than others, but that just made it go down easier.
Ali Pasa Kebab. Finely minced meat (usually lamb) in a thick, spicy sauce, usually served over bread or rice and accompanied by fresh veggies. Chili pepper makes it an eye-opener, but the initial burst of heat quickly gives way to pure, savory, meaty nirvana.
Baklava. Meat House served us homemade baklava, made with honey and topped with a generous layer of ground pistachios. Cafe Rumist’s entry was more like Greek baklava, but infused with a sweet, sticky sugar syrup. Both were good, but I preferred the honey-made variety.
Apple Tea. Every carpet salesman in istanbul will offer you a tiny glass of apple tea, which tastes like fiercely hot cider. The flavor is more intense than Americans expect from a tea. I’m already browsing World Market and Whole Foods for the brands we saw in Turkey.
Sultac. Think creme brule made with rice pudding: a scorched skein on top, protecting a chilled sea of sweet, creamy goodness below. The perfect end to a spicy, meaty meal!